Letters: Must we be forever cheated by the electoral system?

WITH regard to John Birkett’s review of the pitfalls of PR (Letters, February 2), I am obviously missing something, but am a little puzzled at how a proportional electoral system is able to benefit small parties “disproportionately”.

It is true that all systems have their disadvantages and it is correct that PR would have given some parliamentary representation to some of the more extreme smaller parties such as Ukip. However, the present first-past-the-post system has not prevented (and indeed may have made more likely) our having been saddled at Westminster by a hard right-wing Conservative Government with a majority of 80 seats but representing just over a third of those entitled to vote. Nor has it prevented our having had effectively one-party government for three out of the last four decades.

As for the time taken to form a government when no one party has a majority, it is preferable to get things right and it is healthy for all parties to be challenged on what is most important for them and where they are willing to compromise. Even in the emergency of war we had a coalition administration.

From our recent experience there is a lot to be said for consensual as opposed to adversarial government, the former being the norm in most modern European countries. With coalition government there is also the possibility that politicians may be both able and encouraged to look more than four years ahead.

As one who has never been represented in this constituency by any candidate I have ever voted for, I have always felt cheated by FPTP and would welcome PR as both a more practical and more democratic alternative.

Robert Bell, Cambuslang.

* JOHN Birkett concedes that different PR election systems exist and gives two particular examples of countries where the PR systems used have “pitfalls in practice”. The implication of his letter and its headline (“The pitfalls of PR systems”) is that all PR systems have these pitfalls. This is not the case. In countries where the Single Transferable Vote system is used, there is no “multiplication of parties” and there is no disproportionate benefit to small parties.

Scotland uses the mixed, first-past-the-post/list PR system for Scottish Parliament elections and its deficiencies seem to become more evident at every successive election. On the other hand, Scotland uses the PR-STV system instead for council elections and, so far there has been neither a proliferation of parties nor a disproportionate benefit to small parties.

Thomas GF Gray, Lenzie.


PETER Russell’s letter advocating the use of Proportional Representation (February 1), is interesting for two reasons.

First, it must have escaped his memory that just over 10 years ago a Liberal Democrat-sponsored referendum rejected a change in voting system to a system of PR, the Alternative Vote. The outcome was decisive, almost 68 per cent of votes cast being against. Perhaps just as noteworthy was the apparent extent to which the UK electorate was engaged by this proposition, the turnout being only 42.2%.

Secondly, to his credit, Mr Russell does not attempt to conceal his motives for arguing for this change. “It would stop the votes of non-nationalists being wasted and would indeed demonstrate that independence is only supported by a minority of Scottish voters.” Mr Russell is, of course, perfectly within his rights to so argue, but his is another instance of unionist arguments to either prevent any debate about independence (“I see no demand for another referendum” according to our Secretary of State, or “you’ll have had your referendum”) or to prejudice the outcome. In recent weeks this has included removing Civil Service support for the independence case; changing the UK voting tradition of 50 per cent +1 to require a much larger percentage for approval; analysing only the independence proposition as if questions about the UK are not relevant. If all else fails, tell them to get back to the “day job” when the core aim and value of the SNP is independence, and the Scottish electorate keep electing them.

Lastly, Mr Russell is clearly uncomfortable that the SNP in 2019 won 80% of the seats on 45% of the vote. However, in 2010 – the last time Scotland elected more than a single Labour MP – Labour won 70% of the seats on 42% of the vote. This was fine then, but it’s clear why, for Mr Russell and his fellow travellers, it’s far from all right now.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.


THIS week we have heard UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, in many interviews, trying lamentably to back up the actions of her boss; I heard her plead at one point that he worked for about 15 hours a day, and there are a lot of staff in Downing Street. This is unbelievable. He wanted the job, he applied for the job, and stupidly members of his party voted him into the job.

In the 1930s my father, Jimmy Paul, worked down south, and he and his immediate boss were sent up to a wide space of land in the southside of Glasgow, at Hillington, to set up Rolls-Royce to build aeroplanes, ready for the war which they had been told at that time would soon happen. He moved up, became one of the general managers and worked more than 15 hours a day in the early 1940s, and then when he had “officially” finished working, he and his colleagues had sometimes to patrol the factories – on the roofs – as unofficial guards and air wardens to defend any possible sabotage. This was sometimes for 20 to 22 hours a day; so much so that in 1944 he had to be sent to a care home for recuperation for a two-week period, then went back to his job – for the company, the country and of course himself and his family. That, Ms Dorries, lasted more than 15 hours a day. Dad loved his job, and he chose it, and stayed there until 1971, when he retired – with his small stature he was known as The Wee Apostle, dubbed that by the thousands of Rolls-Royce employees who worked under him over the years.

My dad was one of millions of people who worked for his family and company and country, because he chose to do so, and of course was held accountable to his bosses and staff. That’s what working used to be about. Please, someone, somewhere tell this fact to the self-centred ignorant person who dares to use the title of Prime Minister.

Walter Paul, Glasgow.


RE Paul McPhail’s claim (Letters, February 2) that Ian Blackford broke the rules by stating that Boris Johnson misled the House: as I understand it, calling an “honourable” member out for telling porkies is a convention, not a rule. When lying becomes the norm it is only fair to call it to the attention of everyone. Or do we wait for another report from the Met? Is there not some Latin tag about who guards the guardians themselves?

Ron Oliver, Elie.


ON Monday the National Audit Office reported that the Government wasted almost £9 billion on PPE contracts where the goods supplied were either sub-standard, defective, past their use-by date or grossly overpriced (“Nearly £9bn spent on pandemic PPE written off, government accounts show”, The Herald, February 2).

Am I right in thinking that it’s possible some of these contracts were signed off at government business meetings where hard-working officials were consuming cheese and wine, or is there a more plausible explanation?

Jim MacRitchie, Paisley.


GEOFF Moore (Letters, February 2) seems to dismiss Partygate then suggests the PM and his lieutenants should be under investigation for stopping us, the people, attending parties, denying hospital visiting, wrecking small businesses and so on.

I would suggest the PM should be forced to resign for overseeing the disgraceful behaviour at 10 Downing Street during lockdown.

However, much as I have no respect for the PM, it wasn’t him who denied Scots various rights during lockdown, that was solely down to Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister.

John Gilligan, Ayr.


I WONDER whether it ever occurs to the Brexit-supporting Dennis Forbes Grattan (Letters, February 2) and his ilk that as, as the evidence shows, Boris Johnson has lied about everything else, perhaps he lied about Brexit too, and that it is, at best, a crock of ordure, and at worst a policy disaster on the scale of Suez.

I suspect that his commitment to Brexit is emotionally and ideologically based, rather than contingent on evidence. Should he ever wish to apply matters of fact to his perspective, he may wish to read the columns on this subject by the Herald’s Business Editor, the ever-excellent Ian McConnell, who will set him right on this.

Larry Cheyne, Bishopbriggs.

Read more: Blackford has shown himself to be as offensive as Johnson

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